Book Review | Hatching Twitter

Title: Hatching Twitter – A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal
Author: Nick Bilton
Year: 2013
Publisher: Portfolio / Penguin
Pages: 299
Topics Covered: Twitter, Entrepreneurship

I love to read biographies of people I admire and companies that fascinate me. Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton (@nickbilton) is a biography on how Twitter began but it is also a biography on each of the men who helped create it. It is a book that you will not be able to put down as the pages take you through stories of triumph, betrayal and scandal. Full disclosure, this book was never approved by Twitter but Nick is a columnist and reporter for The New York Times and he pieced this book together through various interviews, documents and all the information that he could gather, including Tweets.

What I Learned

According to popular opinion and the media, Jack Dorsey is the sole creator of Twitter. Now although you could make a great case that this is very true, Nick presents a different story in Hatching Twitter that has the creation of Twitter being built upon the actions and decisions of four key characters:

Biz Stone (@biz)

  • The level-headed one of the bunch that was the face of Twitter in the early days, contributed to the early concept and was its first ambassador to the world

Jack Dorsey (@jack)

  • The man who had the initial idea of Twitter and was its first programmer; the man who is behind the reason why Twitter is a platform that is about ‘This is what’s happening to me right now’

Evan Williams (@ev)

  • Creator of Blogger that was sold to Google for millions; main financier of Twitter in the early days and the reason why Twitter is a platform that tells the world, ‘This is what is happening in the world right now’

Noah Glass (@noah)

  • The forgotten creator that got erased from Twitter’s history but that played a very pivotal role; Noah’s story is the saddest of the four and at times you find yourself rooting for him

Twitter Founders

Twitter was the spawn of a company called Odeo. Odeo was company started by Eve and Noah and was a technology meant to bring podcasting to the world. When Apple announced its own podcasting tool, it pretty much killed Odeo so efforts were focused on Jack’s little idea which would be named Twitter. Hatching Twitter takes you through the journey of each of the creators and documents the friendship each had, the betrayal evoked between each of them and eventually the demise of each that left not one of them being part of the organization as it stands today in 2014. Eve is portrayed as the indecisive leader, Jack as the ruthless visionary similar to Steve Jobs, Biz as the easy-going life of the party and Noah as a sensitive, crazed entrepreneur that at the end of the day just wanted to have friends. No doubt these men were brilliant but like all great men, flawed in some fashion.

Why You Should Read This Book

If you are interested in the history of Twitter, this is the book for you. The book is so well written and the stories so detailed that you can’t help but get engulfed in each of the plot-lines and drama. If you are an entrepreneur, this book is a great case study on the ups and downs of a start-up. It definitely presents some lessons for you on what to do and what not to do when you are starting a company. If you liked Steve Job’s autobiography written by Walter Isaacson or Howard Schultz’s Onward, than you will certainly like this book. Hatching Twitter is as much a story of the creation of Twitter as it is the story of four unique individuals that changed the world.

Favourite Quotes

  • “Give a man a tree and he will make it into a boat; give him a leaf and he will curve it into a cup and drink water from it; give him a rock and he will make a weapon to protect himself and his family. Give a man a small box and a limit of 140 characters to type into it, and he will adapt it to fight an oppressive dictatorship in the Middle East.”

Final Thoughts

I recently heard in an interview with Nick that Hatching Twitter was being made into a TV series in the near future. If so, I can’t wait to see it. This book is a masterpiece and if you love Twitter as much as me, you will want Nick to write a follow-up very soon as the story ends before the launch of the IPO and concludes with Dick Costolo being named CEO to lead Twitter into the future. When I finished Hatching Twitter, a part of me just wished that Eve, Jack, Biz and Noah could all just make-up and re-join the organization to make it bigger and better. Not having them part of Twitter is equal to Steve Jobs not being part of Apple. They’ve all moved on since leaving the company, creating other masterpieces in the tech world. Jack has created Square, Eve has created Medium, and Biz has created Jelly. What these men did in the creation of Twitter was connect the world and in Noah’s words, it just helped people feel less lonely.

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